Dynamics Gets its Own 'Duet'

Microsoft is set to unveil a new product designed to more tightly integrate its back-end Dynamics business applications with its desktop Office suite. It's an approach the vendor has already taken with applications rival SAP under their codeveloped Duet software.

"Duet was a good learning example," said James Utzschneider, general manager of Dynamics marketing at Microsoft. "What we're offering is a superset of what you get with Duet."

Known as Microsoft Dynamics Client for Office and SharePoint, the new lightweight licensing tool will be on display Monday at Microsoft's Convergence conference in San Diego.

Apps to Access ERP

The Microsoft offering is a way for companies to give all their employees access to the information held in their organizations' back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications without having to train them on Dynamics or equip each worker with their own full-blown copy of Dynamics. Instead, the workers can access the ERP information from within their Office applications or via Microsoft's SharePoint Web portal.

The Dynamics Client includes as many as 12 so-called "self-service" ERP applications built into Office and SharePoint. The applications include Time and Attendance for Dynamics GP, Project Time and Expense for Dynamics SL, and Dynamics Snap Business Data Lookup for Dynamics AX.

The product is due to begin shipping in May. It comes in two flavors. Microsoft Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and Windows SharePoint Services costs $195 per user. Microsoft Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server, which includes a copy of the vendor's SharePoint Server 2007 software, is priced at $395 per user.

"The feedback we got from Duet was awesome at the starting point," Utzschneider said. "But users said they'd like the ability to customize." The new Dynamics Client gives Microsoft's customers and partners the necessary access rights to information and processes managed by Dynamics so they can build their own Office business applications, where the suite becomes the front end to accessing the ERP data.

Built on Duet

Microsoft and SAP released the first version of Duet in June 2006. The integration software enables users to access data and processes from SAP's mySAP ERP applications via Microsoft's Office suite. It includes integration capabilities for different business scenarios such as time, leave, and organization management.

Back in January, Dennis Moore, SAP's general manager of emerging solutions, said his company and Microsoft were on track to ship Duet 1.5 later this year along with development tools so that third parties will be able to customize and build on top of the Duet-enabled scenarios.

Rival ERP vendor Oracle claims it's had tight integration in place between its applications and Microsoft's Office for some time.

"Duet? We did all that five years ago," John Wookey, senior vice president of applications at Oracle, said in a recent interview. "PeopleSoft, Oracle and Siebel did it and we don't charge extra for it," he added, describing Duet as "the most uninspiring thing I've seen in the software industry."

At its conference, Microsoft is also announcing industry-specific tools for its Dynamics business applications, so they are more suited to specific vertical markets.

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